He seemed quiet and more reserved than usual. Something was bothering him and I couldn’t put my finger on it. I knew he needed new jeans— what thirteen-year-old boy doesn’t need another pair of jeans? So after school, I picked up my son and we made our way to his favorite store. On the way home, I bought him a cheeseburger. That’s all it took. All the way home, I listened as stories tumbled out. We laughed together and he thanked me.
What drew our hearts together that day had little to do with the new jeans or the burger. It had everything to do with the afternoon we spent together. I very easily could’ve ordered him new jeans online or picked some up while he was at school. But I wouldn’t have connected with him in the same way.
We are Mamas who hold the mundane and the eternal, the sacred and the ordinary. We have values to instill and truths to teach. We have laundry to fold, lunches to pack and diapers to change. Squeezing it all into the years we’ve been given can be overwhelming.
Perhaps we don’t have to hold the mundane in one hand and the sacred in the other. As parents, one of the most beautiful things we can do for our children is to bring the two together. We can build times of intentional parenting into the family rhythms we’ve already established into our days. Rhythms are the ways in which we arrange our time—the patterns we repeat day after day. Making dinner. Riding in the car. Walking the dog. No matter how organized or chaotic our lives are, we have family rhythms. The key to tapping into the heart of our child is to draw purpose into our existing rhythms.
This certainly isn’t a new idea. There was a man named Moses who taught a group of people the importance of ordering their days around guiding their children. He knew the adversity they would face and the ways they would drift away from their convictions. So he told them, “Write these commandments that I’ve given you today on your hearts. Get them inside of you and then get them inside your children. Talk about them wherever you are, sitting at home or walking in the street; talk about them from the time you get up in the morning to when you fall into bed at night. Tie them on your hands and foreheads as a reminder; inscribe them on your doorposts of your homes and on your city gates.” (Deuteronomy 6:5-9)
It’s brilliant! Moses taught the people to hold the sacred and the mundane together in their everyday activities. It’s a formula that still works for us today:
Eating together. Sitting together around a table is a perfect time to establish virtues in the heart of our children. What do we value? How can we integrate spiritual and moral conversation into the normal chatter, even for a few moments? Having important conversations about values helps kids make wise decisions when faced with a tough situation.
Taking a drive. It can be tempting to jump in the car and run a few quick errands without an extra passenger. However, there’s untapped potential in taking a drive with our kids, when they know they have our undivided attention. Sitting side by side (not face to face) gives them space to talk about struggling friendships, funny stories and the things that are weighing on their hearts. It’s a great time for parents to help kids interpret life, to be a friend and to listen.
Getting up in the morning. No matter what has happened the night before, a new day brings new hope. Parents have the potential to shape the trajectory of a child’s day by sending them out into the world feeling confident and loved. Taking a few moments in the midst of the morning rush to intentionally encourage the heart of a child cultivates trust and purpose.
Going to bed. The darkness of night and the safety of being tucked under blankets brings out vulnerability in kids. There is no better time for us to build intimacy in our relationship than when we take a few minutes to stop and listen to what’s going on in the heart of our child. Bedtime provides a great opportunity for parents to help children manage their strong feelings, making connections between actions and feelings.
As parents, we have the power to transform everyday rhythms into intentional times of growth and guidance. In doing so, we change our ordinary, mundane tasks into something extraordinary. As those times of gentle guidance multiply, we’ll begin to see the long picture of parenting. We’ll look back to see how the character of our children was formed in the seemingly forgettable moments. The times around the table. The whispered dreams in the darkness of the night. The trips to the grocery store. The conversations while we braid hair and check homework.
May you have the courage today to listen to the heart of your child. Be confident in your ability to hold the ordinary and the sacred together, cultivating rhythms that build trust. Dare to take your mediocre, everyday moments and see them for what they truly are.
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Sarah Damaska lives in the Thumb of Michigan with her pastor-husband, one son, two daughters, and a new puppy. In 2009, after the sudden death of their daughter, Annie, her grief drove her to an even deeper dependence on Jesus. She writes about the intersection of hope and sorrow at sarahdamaska.com.
For March 2018, Kindred Mom is hosting a series about Becoming a Resilient Mom.
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Episode 36 of the Kindred Mom Podcast on Dealing with Big Feelings as a Mom is now available!